Zbrush or Mudbox for me? Characters to a movie

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  05 May 2013
Zbrush or Mudbox for me? Characters to a movie

Hello guys,

I would like to ask you about those two packages and what are the strength and weaknesses of them so I can decide which one to go for.
My main job is in animation but I would like to learn how to sculpt just as a hobby. Eventually I would like to design my 3 characters for my short movie and thought that I would do it in either of those 2 and then take it to Maya and animate there.

I like that Mudbox has similar UI as Maya so its immediately "intuitive" to use. On the other hand I think Zbrush has more to offer and I especially like the zspheres etc.

I don't mind learning the different UI of Zbrush as long as it will be powerful in the end.

So, if there was a person like me that wants to design characters that will later be used for animation which one would you advice is stronger? I used to do modelling in Maya but hated the topology thing so that is something one doesn't has to worry about much in Zbrush as it keeps it clean for you, right?

Could you please tell me what each is strong at so that can take my decision easier, please? I have mudbox trial I am testing now and I also have Zbrush at work to play with.
My impression is that Zbrush has tons and tons of stuff and hence is better but i could be totally wrong.

Could you please keep it nice and polite and help me out? It would be very nice of you.
Also, what are the downfalls of each program to my potential needs for the short movie, please?
Thank you
  05 May 2013
I tested Mudbox before Zbrush, it is much easier to handle. Zbrush is powerfull, iam a hobby user and quit the 3D Stuff but in my opinion Zbrush is better then Mudbox! If you are interessted in Zbrush, i can sell you my licence. As i mentioned i quit this hobby because i have barely the time.
  05 May 2013
You are going to get different views depending on who started with what first. I started with zbrush and later tried mudbox so my views will be bias and not much use. Anyhow I found mudbox slow and zbrush quick on most normal pcs. Going up and down in sub d levels in mudbox can be a real chore as well as weird masking behavior and loads of other bumps and grinds which go smoothly in ZB. In any case I found mudbox hard to use by comparison. I hear it is great for texturing. I have seen terrific work done in MB and seen some amazing tutorials so I am sure once you get used to it it will more than serve your needs. Its not for me though.
The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
  05 May 2013
i have been using zbrush since it all most came out and not once have i ever had to pay for a upgrade
zbrush has a lot and you can find some thing new each time which makes it not boring.
some of the tools are awkward to use and some thing that could make things easy might not be easy in zbrush but maybe easier in other apps.
i wish the action line/transpose tool would have options
to all ways stick the action line end circle to the object center pivot point,
have a option to turn this on or off.
i wish they had a manipulator like this, all in 1 tool

Last edited by informerman : 05 May 2013 at 02:29 AM.
  05 May 2013
I think I'll give a Zbrush a go and hope it was the right choice
Thank you guys
  06 June 2013
Mudbox >3d coat ect ect .there all trying to copy zbrush
to tell you the truth the guy who owned mudbox and he used to work for Pixologic may be a suspect of copying zbrush, but who cares, he sold mudbox out to you know who.
dave cash well banker
or was that dave cadwell,
dave cadwell was smart, he took the money and ran,
his gain and Pixologic lost,
my guess is autodesk paid dave so well he had to sign a agreement not to compete ever in 3D software, he was the BEST, and IF he still owned mudbox then i would say good bye to zbrush.

autodesk price vs zbrush price PLUS FREE UPGRADE and zbrush is better.
zbrush has been around for a long time and no one can beat it,
these other company's are what we call a wanna Be.

problem with zbrush is there not user friendly on listening what other user want or wants fixed better,
its there way not your way.
in other words don't join no zbrush brush wish list forums because you will just end up just wishing..

most of these apps that copy zbrush die out because that cant compete
or they sell out to another sucker.
i think i bought brush over 10 years ago for $299 and it took 10 years before it doubled the price
and mudbox has been out for a few years and it cost more then zbrush.

i have been getting FREE zbrush upgrades since i bought it.

Last edited by informerman : 06 June 2013 at 04:46 AM.
  06 June 2013
Yep, you are right. The price point is a massive thing.
Don't know about the background of that guy but if he was that good why wouldn't he work for Autodesk after they purchased it? It would be logical step that would make the product worth the money they are asking for, no?
  06 June 2013
I say take your time, don't rush the decision.

Watch as many tutorials as you can for Zbrush and since you are using the MB trial dig into that. What I wound up doing was to buy and use both apps.

But for me I also wanted to use MotionBuilder. And I had Softimage initially. So an upgrade to a Maya suite made a ton of sense to me financially. And at the same time I also just bought Zbrush. Was the best decision I could have made in the end for me. And I enjoy having both apps actually. I think it is the best of both worlds.

But a word of caution. You won't find it too easy to generate a good mesh for animation in either of the two apps. You will wind up to doing retopo. If you have Maya 2014, then you will have the NEX toolset to work with. My self personally I am too finicky about polyflow to rely on any of the topology tools in Zbrush or Mudbox. But I find the NEX tools to do a good job over a high poly mesh.

I like Mubdbox workflow for painting and layers as well as the integration with Maya in that way. You can also use Ptex with Maya too. So that is a plus although currently with some limitations.

But Zbrush is hands down the best sculpting app. If you can afford it, consider both.
Richard Culver
Protfolio Facebook WIP1 WIP2
  06 June 2013
Thank you Richard,

I will play with both although I actually like Zbrush more from the tutorials etc.
Yes, I've heard that painting is way better in Mudbox but so far I don't know why as I haven't gotten to that point yet.
Would you know a good painting tutorial for mudbox that would actually demonstrate why is it better over Zbrush, please?
That would be helpful.
But yeah, Zbrush looks like a lot of fun
  06 June 2013
I think there are some good tutorials over at Digital Tutors for Mudbox. You can have a look see over there to start.

But I can more or less break it down technically.

First of all Zbrush forces you to paint on a mesh that is high enough poly count to get you the detail you are looking for because it is poly painting. Similar to Ptex but tied into the resolution of the mesh.

Mubox allows you to paint based on the resolution of the map on any kind of poly model. It also has Ptex which allows you to paint on the model without the use of UVs. This can then be baked down to UVs, or even used in a limited way - no bumpmaps for example - in Maya without UVs, In my Opinion Ptex is not there yet as far as pipeline workflow is concerned. They need to do some more work in Maya/Mental Ray I think to make that happen. But it is interesting and can be useful for some things.

Zbrush Polypaint is also not tied into UVs. But you bake it down to UVs on the lowest subdivision of the model to export. Just as you do with PTex in Mubdbox.

Just overall I like the layers interface and workflow in Mubdbox over Zbrush. There are not as many brushes and I really miss a lot of the painting functions in Zbrush when painting in Mudbox. So I am still a bit mixed in my opinion of it.

I think in the end you'll just have to play with both and decide.
Richard Culver
Protfolio Facebook WIP1 WIP2
  06 June 2013
Thank you. That is still a bit confusing but I think I kinda know what you mean but I guess I will understand it even more once I get to that point.

I just have to make sure that I have the model ok for animation and that the sculpting works. (I remember zbrush 7 years ago when you had to export displacement and bump map but apparently these days you can choose the level of detail you want to have in mesh and the rest can be bump or displacement which I think is better - unless i got the wrong information)

Overall, Zbrush looks great and love the potential and I'm saying that after only seeing the "getting started" tutorials. Once I get to more and more I'm sure i will be impressed even more
  06 June 2013
OK, if you want a definitive answer. It is simple.

Zbrush is the best solution for sculpting currently on the market.

Don't worry about the animation side of it. These details have been worked out years ago and are still being improved on. You will find tutorials on this kind of thing and you can get the answers you need here to specific workflow points.

It is very simple.

All sculpting detail is baked back to a low poly mesh for animation. You will not be able to make that mesh in Zbrush or Mudbox alone. You will need to retopo the mesh in another app. then bring that mesh into Zbrush and up the resolution of that mesh to match the detail of the sculpt. Then you transfer the detail to this mesh by what is called "projection". Now your sculpted detail is on the mesh you will use for animation that has levels of detail. You then put the resolution of that retopoed mesh back down to the base level of detail and make normal and displacement maps for it. Zbrush does this by "seeing" the highest level of detail on that mesh and making a map of it to the current level you have selected.

The maps are baked to a UV map you have made for that mesh at its base low poly level.

EDIT: At no time is a high poly mesh ever used in the animation. Only the retopoed mesh. Levels of detail are not exported from Zbrush at the mesh level. Only as image maps.

A similar thing is done in Mudbox.

These maps are then exported to your animation app and applied to the mesh during render time using texture mapping with the same UVs on that mesh in Maya.

You always animate the low poly base mesh. And when you render it subdivides the mesh and applies the details with the displacement maps and finer details with normal maps on a bump channel.
Richard Culver
Protfolio Facebook WIP1 WIP2

Last edited by cineartist : 06 June 2013 at 04:17 PM.
  06 June 2013
Thank you Richard, that is very helpful and slowly starts to make sense. I'm sure that as soon as I get to that stage I might come here again with some questions but until then I will keep learning and maybe I will even know the answers when I reach that stage.

I guess the tricky part might start when the mess is animated as some of the deformation might need to be redone (my guess) but that is for later.

Right now I will do baby steps. Thank you for your input, it is very much appreciated
  06 June 2013
Regarding your point about deformation you are on the right track.

Basically when you retopo you want to capture as much mesh detail as you can of the mesh.

Capture the major cavities and so on. Nothing wrong with even going for some of the large wrinkles in skin depending on the character. The more you can get away with at this stage the better in my opinion.

This will give you the most realistic representation.

Now you could actually get away with no displacement at all. In this case Zbrush just becomes a tool to sketch out and detail your mesh in a free form manor. Then you retopo that to a more efficient mesh. For example the level of detail of a mesh to sculpt a clean fold in skin or the details in an ear is quite high. But to go back and retopo that mesh and put control edges where needed is far more efficient.

Then for all of the finer skin pores and all of that you are actually using only a normal map to the bump channel.

In the case of scales on skin where there is a definite profile you'd want to displace. But you'd want to be sure and retopo the larger profiles and details. So it depends on the character.

Now on the subject of displacement on animation you are right on the mark as far as feedback is concerned.

This is actually currently the cutting edge of technology. And in fact you have some of this right now in Maya with the new real time DX11 shaders that will do tessellation (subdividing) of mesh for displacement maps in real time. Useful for feedback while animating.



This is currently being further developed with the new Pixar Open Subdiv project. Where the goal is to get much more efficient placement of detail where needed when tessellating the mesh.

You may find this entire video very enlightening.

Richard Culver
Protfolio Facebook WIP1 WIP2
  06 June 2013
Thank you.
Yeah, I've noticed the new stuff in VP2 so that should make things a bit easier.

One thing I was wondering about as the tutorials didn't touch it (yet) is that when you are in 2.5d drawing and you draw instances of things is there a way to then be able to sculpt all of it or just the last one? The reason why I am asking is this scenario:

Let's just say that I want to make a table and 4 chairs and then I will put a bowl on that table etc etc etc. After that I would import it to maya. Is that possible or do I have to do it individually?
The reason I wonder about this is because I'm thinking of creating a whole cottage house in zbrush as with zspheres and sketching it looks like it will be very fast compared to maya.

Btw. so far I love the program. It's amazing and every tutorial I watch and then test I go like this: "OMG thats amazing! LOVE IT!!"
It makes rainy days very enjoyable
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